Single Family Zoning Ma Be A Thing Of The Past In California
In 1960, about 2.5 million people lived in the city of Los Angeles, but 10 million theoretically could. The city had the zoning capacity for that many residents — developers could legally build enough apartments to house them, neighborhoods were planned to accommodate that much growth.
Then L.A. began to reimagine itself in ways that constrain the city today.
L.A. and many California communities began the steady process of “downzoning”: converting land that allowed courtyard apartments to just fourplexes, fourplexes to duplexes, large-lot single-family homes to even-larger-lot single-family homes.
Within 20 years, the city’s zoning capacity had been cut to just under 4 million people. And that number has barely kept pace since with actual population growth.
Today, many families are doubling up or paying far more than they can afford for a place to live.
This history portrays a clearer picture of the housing shortage in California. It’s not just that the state hasn’t built enough housing over the years; California communities have made it illegal to build much of the housing that was once possible.
S.B. 50 would have significantly changed that. But the proposal, from State Senator Scott Wiener, is just one of several from officials across the country who are starting to rethink single-family zoning entirely.